Postseason Postmortem

Thank God, it’s finally over. By the end of this beatdown of a season the Giants were reduced to one forlorn goal. Don’t lose a hundred games. They didn’t, and that’s the best you can say about 2017.

The record will show 98 losses against 64 wins. Dead last in the National League, and tied with Detroit in the American League, a team we faced, and swept, in the World Series five years ago.

How bad is 64-98? Turn it around and see. In our three championship years of 2010, 2012 and 2014, we never won 98 games. Our high-water mark was 94 wins, in 2012. We were worse this year than we were good in our World Series years. Those years we made history; this year, we were historically bad.

But I’m not here to mourn. With apologies to the Bard, who didn’t know a double from a doublet, I come to praise baseball, not to bury it.

Why should anyone care about a baseball team? What mysterious allegiance compels 73 million souls a year to witness in person, and millions more by media proxy, a game of baseball, and give a damn about the outcome?

Why, to experience the same spectrum of emotions provided by sex—tension and relief.

No other game creates such exquisite tension as baseball. I believe I can prove that accusation. Look at the fans during a close, important game. Their faces show anxiety, not joy, when you can see their faces at all. I’ve seen spectators at a baseball game hiding behind their hands, eyes blocked against the unbearable suspense, praying for the final out to finally come.

I’ve never seen that happen in any other sport.

Other sports you can dominate; a great basketball team can win 85% if its games, a great football team all of them. Not baseball. Baseball, like life, yields its triumphs stingily. A great baseball team loses 40% of its games. Even when you win, you don’t dominate. You endure.

Baseball is a grind. The highest compliment a player can pay another is to call him a grinder. It’s also a game of luck. In basketball, a perfect shot finds the hoop; in baseball, a perfect hit often finds a glove.

The stats gurus seem to think they have the game figured out, and, big picture, maybe they do. But, to use their own language, a baseball game is a small sample size.

A little luck, a little magic, and Bobby Thomson flashes across the October sky, leaving a comet trail we can still see, 3000 miles away and 66 years later.

I don’t want to denigrate the knowledge and insight that advanced metrics have brought to the game. But baseball is not my algorithm versus your algorithm. If it was that sterile, who’d watch?

All sports have their fans, but the tenacious emotional connection a fan, a city, can have to its baseball team, even a miserable, perennial loser of a team, is unique.

“Larry lives and dies with the Cubs.” How often have you heard something like that? And in Larry’s case, unless he lived to be 108, it was literally true. Wild guess here, but I bet there were scorecards and pennants placed on numerous graves in Chicago last year, when they finally broke the curse.

I think baseball fanhood is more like an addiction than simple rooting. Tension and relief, that’s what baseball provides. That’s also what opioids provide. Each day, each season, you come back for your fix.

Baseball, like opioids, isn’t everyone’s cup of codeine. But for us addicts, the best winter day can never be as delicious as the best summer day. Because there’s no game in winter.

I’ll peek at the hapless Niners and bandwagon with the amazing Warriors, but really I’m just marking time. For those of us bitten by the bug, there are only two seasons. The baseball season and the flu season.

The sun is disappearing in the south, but it will soon return, sure as hay fever. Cainer and Timmy won’t be back, but the Giants will.

And, at the risk of setting the bar so low a paramecium couldn’t limbo under it, all we need to do to have a better year is not lose 98 games.

This annual meeting of the San Francisco Giants fanbase is now closed. I’m truly sorry for your loss(es.) Let’s gather again under happier circumstances. Shall we say on opening day? There’s nothing happier than that.

 

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